On Tuesday, a federal judge said that living in a public park to protest is not protected by the First Amendment. The response was the rejection of an Occupy DC demonstrator who requested that park police not enforce a ban on camping in the park.
A temporary restraining order was sought by Dane Charles Primarano that would prohibit the National Park Service and its police department from removing protestors who are found sleeping or holding camping gear in Freedom Square and Washington’s McPherson Park.
Primarano represented himself in court and argued that camping at the park is a constitutionally protected form of free speech. The judge, James Boasberg, disagreed with Primarano by saying that the matter was part of public policy and not part of constitutional law.
The United States Park Police set forth a ban on camping in the park on Tuesday, the first full day for the ban. Protestors were told on Monday by officials that their camping gear had to be removed. The gear that had to be removed included sleeping bags and any housekeeping items but the protestors could keep their tents so long as one flap remained open around the clock.
On Tuesday, protestors said that they were told by police that they had a few hours to remove a blue tarp that they draped over a statue of Civil War General James B. McPherson, the namesake of the park. The tarp was called the tent of dreams by protestors.
“I had more fun in the park last night than the whole time I’ve been here,” said demonstrator Amanda Rickard. “We were out here playing guitar, singing, playing drums, Scrabble, card games, you know, just stuff to keep us busy so we can stay here and stay awake.”
Another protestor said that the mandate against sleeping in the park and camping gear could take a toll on the protestors in the park.
“To be honest, I don’t know how long we can keep this up,” Kevin Wiley said.
One of the signs from a protestor, which was written with white paint on a blue tarp, said: “Evicted from home by the banks. Evicted from the tent by the police. 99% has no safe place to rest.”
Wiley said that the protestors were trying to follow the rules as much as possible in an effort to “show we are law-abiding citizens.”
“We’re not out here just trying to have a good time, we are out here for a political message,” he said.
The occupy protests began last year in New York for one main theme; anger from against the out of touch corporate, financial and political elite in the country. In Oakland, California, 400 protestors were arrested as a result of a violent clash between the protestors and police officers.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, police officers took down multiple tents at an Occupy camp.
“We’re doing the right thing, peacefully and quietly,” protester Malachi Vinson said. “We’re expressing ourselves in a better way than anyone else would.”